Grievance Policy and Procedures for Allegations by Undergraduate Students Against Faculty

On December 19, 2002, Washington University in St. Louis’ Faculty Senate approved a Policy on Discriminatory Harassment, applicable to all members of the university community.

In addition, a special task force appointed by the chancellor determined that supplemental informal procedures are appropriate generally in instances where an undergraduate student seeks to pursue a grievance against a faculty member and that supplemental formal procedures are appropriate where the grievance alleges discrimination by a faculty member.

Accordingly this policy, supplemental to the Policy on Discriminatory Harassment adopted by the Faculty Senate, applies to claims made by an undergraduate student against a faculty member.

Policy Statement

Washington University is committed to assuring that appropriate options are available to students with grievances against faculty members, including grievances involving discrimination and/or discriminatory harassment. University policy prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, veteran status, disability or genetic information. Discrimination or discriminatory harassment based on any of these classifications violates university policy and will not be tolerated. In some circumstances, such harassment may also violate federal, state or local law.

This statement describes the informal procedures available to undergraduate students who have any type of grievance against faculty members and the more formal procedures available to students who believe that they have been subjected to discrimination or discriminatory harassment by faculty members.

What Is Discriminatory Harassment?

Discriminatory harassment is a subset of discrimination and consists of unwelcome and objectively offensive conduct by a faculty member against a student that (a) has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with that student’s work or educational environment, (b) is directed at a particular student or group of students because of the student’s/students’ race, color, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, veteran status or disability, and (c) is abusive or severely humiliating. A faculty member alleged to be routinely abusive to all students might be the subject of a complaint of “harassment,” but it would not be “discriminatory harassment” because it is not targeted at a particular group.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a subset of discriminatory harassment. The definition of sexual harassment adopted by the university can be found in Section II of the Washington University Discrimination and Harassment Policy Statement. If you believe that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, the policy describes options for resolution and university action as well as where you can get help. Complaints of sexual harassment are handled according to the Discrimination and Harassment Policy.

Seeking Assistance for Claims Against Faculty Members

If your claim against a faculty member is for discrimination or discriminatory harassment, you have options, both informal and formal, for dealing with your concerns. You may pursue informal means instead of or before making a formal complaint. If an informal procedure is ineffective, the formal procedures remain open to you. If your claim is not for discrimination or discriminatory harassment, you may pursue the informal procedures outlined below.

Informal Procedures: Faculty-Student Mediator

If you would like to proceed informally with the assistance of a third person, you should contact the faculty-student mediator for your school.

Each mediator is a full-time faculty member or administrator of his/her school designated to consider student grievances from a neutral perspective. The mediator will attempt to help you resolve your concern. If your grievance involves a faculty member from another school, your mediator will advise the mediator for that school of the complaint.

In the process of addressing a grievance, the mediator will make a brief written record of your grievance, including the names of the parties, the nature of the accusation, the responsive explanation of the faculty member and the resolution of the case. In processing any type of grievance, the mediator will strive to protect, to the greatest extent possible, the confidentiality of your complaint, but complete confidentiality cannot be guaranteed in every instance.

Other Confidential Resources

If you want to discuss your situation in a more confidential setting or clarify your feelings about whether and how you wish to proceed, you may want to consult with a social worker, therapist, or member of the clergy, many of whom are permitted, by law, to assure greater confidentiality. Clergy and counseling resources are listed in Bearings and Security on the Danforth Campus. In addition, you may contact Student Counseling Services at 314-935-6666 for a confidential discussion and, if desired, referral to off-campus resources.

Formal Procedures for Grievances Alleging Discrimination or Discriminatory Harassment

If your claim involves discrimination or discriminatory harassment and you are not satisfied with the results of an informal procedure, or elect not to participate in an informal procedure, you may file a formal grievance with the Discrimination and Title IX Grievance Committee, formerly known as the “Title IX Committee” (“Committee”). This process may lead to a formal hearing at which evidence will be considered and witnesses heard. The specifics of this process are set forth below:

The Complaint

1. The undergraduate student complaining of discrimination or discriminatory harassment by a faculty member (“Complainant”) shall submit a brief written statement to the chairperson of the committee in care of Legail Poole Chandler at Campus Box 8002.
2. The chairperson shall promptly review the complaint and may meet informally with the complainant. The chairperson may seek to obtain additional relevant information and may informally interview the charged party or parties.
3. If the chairperson determines that there is no reasonable basis to believe that an act of discrimination has occurred, the complaint shall be dismissed and the complainant, all charged parties, and all committee members shall be informed, in writing, of the action.
4. If the chairperson determines that there is at least some basis to believe that a discriminatory act has occurred, the chairperson shall refer the complaint to the committee for hearing.

  1. The chairperson shall prepare a summary of the complaint that includes a description of the alleged discriminatory conduct, and have it served by mail or hand delivery to the charged party or parties, and the dean(s) of the school(s) in which the parties are enrolled or employed. The chairperson shall also furnish a copy to the complainant.
  2. The charged party or parties shall have the opportunity to submit a brief written response to the chairperson, with copies to the d eans who received the summary of the complaint and to the charged party(ies).

The Hearing

5. Hearings shall be conducted informally in the sense that legal rules of evidence shall not govern the testimony received. However, the procedures outlined herein shall be followed in the interest of fairness to all parties involved.
6. The chairperson shall promptly convene a panel from among the committee members to hear the complaint. The panel shall consist of the chairperson, plus six (6) other members from the committee, of which three (3) shall be students and three (3) shall be members of the faculty, administration, or staff. A quorum consists of four (4) members, plus the chairperson. All decisions of the panel shall be resolved in favor of the majority of those voting on a particular issue. The panel may also seek assistance from members of the office of the executive vice chancellor and general counsel, who shall not vote.
7. The chairperson shall provide reasonable advance written notice to all parties and panel members of the set time and place for the hearing. Five (5) working days prior to the hearing, each party shall submit to the chairperson and to all other parties a list of witnesses and copies of any documents each party expects to present in support or defense of the complaint.
8. Each party may have one adviser (for example, a friend, family member, colleague, or attorney), of his or her choice and at his or her expense, present during the evidentiary hearing. Such adviser shall have no right to participate in the proceedings except at the specific request or permission of the panel, and must agree to abide by the confidentiality restrictions set forth in these procedures. If a party’s adviser is an attorney, the party shall provide the attorney’s name and telephone number to the chairperson at least five (5) working days prior to the start of the hearing.
9. The chairperson shall preside at the hearing. The panel members may question the parties and all witnesses who appear at the hearing. All questions and comments by the parties shall be directed to the Panel; adverse parties and witnesses will not generally be permitted to cross-examine or confront each other directly.
10. All parties shall be provided the full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant (in the panel’s judgment) to the issues raised. All parties may make opening and closing statements. Each party may call witnesses that it previously identified to the panel. The panel may also invite witnesses on its own initiative.
11. The hearing proceedings are closed to the public. Only the parties, the parties’ advisers, representatives from the office of the executive vice chancellor and general counsel, and witnesses (but only during their own testimony) may be present when evidence is being presented or arguments are being heard; no one else may attend the hearings or deliberations without the express invitation of the panel. The panel shall limit its inquiry exclusively to matters determined to be relevant to the particular issues in dispute. All proceedings are confidential and the results shall be disclosed only to the parties, to university officials with a “need to know,” and where required by law.
12. The evidentiary hearing, but not the panel deliberations, may be sound recorded at the panel’s election, and copies made available to the parties upon their request and at their expense.

The Decision

13. Within ten (10) working days of the last day of the evidentiary hearing, the panel shall submit to all parties and appropriate university administrators a written decision explaining the reasons for the panel’s decision and setting forth findings of fact, conclusions, and recommendations. Findings of fact, conclusions, and recommendations shall be limited to the issues in dispute before the panel. Any panel member may include a written dissent from the written report.
14. Panel decisions are recommendations to the university administration and the Faculty Senate, which will make the final determination on grievances. Both the administration and the Faculty Senate Council retain their general jurisdiction over the allegations of faculty misconduct.

Updated August 2012 to be consistent with the Discriminatory Harassment Policy and reference to the Discrimination and Title IX Grievance Committee